(Alberta Federation of Labour ) Nearing the halfway point of its mandate, the NDP government has been studying the Alberta Employment Standards Code, the Labour Relations Code, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. And although there have been amendments over the years, some labour laws have remained untouched since 1976. Bob Barnetson, an associate professor of labour relations at Athabasca University, says there are key areas on the government's radar that, if changed, would make it easier to organize unions and land a first contract. Barnetson says Alberta has among "the most regressive labour laws" in Canada. He says bringing in what's known as "first-contract legislation" and a "card check" system of certifying a union would lead to more organized workplaces in Alberta. First contract, or first-arbitration legislation, would impose a first contract through arbitration, if a contract couldn't be reached through bargaining, according to Barnetson. 'Alberta law needs to be updated to make sure that Albertans have the same kind of rights and protection in the workplace that are enjoyed by other Canadians.' - Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour "It sounds far more Draconian than it actually is," Barnetson says, adding that the existence of legislation is an incentive for employers to work through the process to reach a collective agreement. A "card check" system of forming a union requires employees to simply sign a card or petition. The current system in Alberta requires a mandated follow-up vote by members 10 days after registering with the Alberta Labour Relations Board. "The delay that goes on between applying and having the vote gives the employer the time to terrorize the bargaining unit and put a chill on the organizing drive," Barnetson says.
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